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In a welcome development, the Prime Minister of Pakistan launched the country’s first National Security Policy (NSP) on 14 January 2022. Of significant importance is the shift that the policy has brought by adopting a comprehensive approach to security inclusive of its multiple facets, ranging from economic and energy security to gender and health security, and by moving from geopolitics to geo-economics. However, this new development notwithstanding, the policy is not the end of the story. The next steps would indeed be the most decisive. Pakistan’s National Security Adviser (NSA), Dr Moeed Yusuf, rightly asserted that the policy’s success would lie in its implementation for which a plan was being developed.

It is important to highlight that the NSP document also outlines various principles to inform the implementation of policy goals, including a whole-of-government approach, inclusivity, resolve, introspection, pragmatism, proactiveness, prioritization, and consistency. The listing of these principles within the document suggests that a whole-of-government approach, involving well-coordinated actions among all state organs, is important. However, to what degree will this approach accord attention to strengthening coordination and breaking the silos between the federal and provincial governments remains to be seen. It is argued that if the policy is to yield promising results, robust federal-provincial coordination should be a matter of utmost necessity under post-devolution circumstances.

In theory, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan eliminated the overlapping responsibilities between the Centre and the provinces by abolishing the Concurrent List. However, events on the ground suggest otherwise. Contrary to the Amendment’s aim of bringing clarity, the realignment of roles at the federal and provincial levels have blurred the responsibilities between these two tiers of government and created institutional overlaps. The absence of strong coordination, role ambiguities, and institutional overlaps may arguably hinder the effective realisation of the vision and the aims of NSP.

One area of this is the domain of environmental and water security. For example, the NSP calls for mainstreaming climate adaptation and ensuring a cohesive national response to water scarcity. However, the 18th Amendment has caused institutional overlaps regarding governance on climate and water related matters. According to ‘National Water Policy 2018’, ‘water resource is a national responsibility but irrigation and agriculture, as well as rural and urban water supply, environment and other water related sub-sectors are provincial subjects.’ These issues cannot be effectively tackled in isolation.

Similarly, the policy calls for channelising the country’s geo-economic location for trade and connectivity – one of the cornerstones of the country’s geo-economic vision. Realising this vision necessitates an adequate and efficient trade-related infrastructure, transportation, and logistics system. This again calls for well-coordinated action between the two tiers of government, given that while the Ministry of Communication deals with transportation and communication sectors (expanding national road networks, researching road engineering etc.), the provincial governments also have separate transport departments orientated towards varied roles. For instance, the objectives of the KPK transport department are to introduce a transport infrastructure policy, construct trucking terminals to meet the needs of the trucking sector, or extend the railway services, among others.

Another case in point is that of energy security. The NSP calls for securing ‘adequate, cost-effective energy supplies at home and from abroad for economic growth’ by promoting eco-friendly and sustainable energy development, among other things. However, a World Wind Energy Association’s (WWEA) and Heinrich Böll Stiftung report underscores post-18th Amendment challenges for the energy sector. The report highlights that while some line departments were devolved to the provinces, others remain under the Centre, thus resulting in ambiguity regarding the institutional responsibilities.

Additionally, the policy aims to alleviate food insecurity while adopting climate-resilient agriculture and contributing to value-added exports. However, vagueness also prevails in this domain given that while food security and food exports are the Federal Government’s purview, food production and agriculture are provincial subjects.

In the same manner, if one continues to delve deeper, we will find institutional overlaps and role ambiguities in numerous other domains such as health and education (e.g., overlapping roles of the federal and provincial HECs). Nevertheless, the purpose of mentioning these few cases is to assert that robust coordination between national and provincial tiers is critical to translating the NSP’s vision and aims into reality. It is, therefore, hoped that the future roadmap guiding its implementation will ensure strengthening federal-provincial coordination. This will not only help in bringing clarity to institutional roles and responsibilities but also in identifying opportunities for collaboration, and ensuring optimal allocation of resources.  

Zahra Niazi is a researcher at the Centre for Aerospace & Security Studies (CASS), Islamabad, Pakistan. She can be reached at cass.thinkers@gmail.com.  

Image Source: Ary News, (2020, January 15), Read Pakistan’s First National Security Policy here, https://arynews.tv/read-pakistans-first-ever-national-security-policy/

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